Cover image for The pupil : poems
The pupil : poems
Merwin, W. S. (William Stanley), 1927-
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Alfred A. Knopf : Distributed by Random House, 2001.
Physical Description:
ix, 91 pages ; 25 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS3563.E75 P86 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks-Non circulating

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Hailed by Peter Davison in the Boston Sunday Globe as a poet who "engages the underground stream of our lives at depths that only two or three living poets can match," W. S. Merwin now gives us The Pupil , a volume of astonishing range and extraordinary beauty: a major literary event.

These are poems of great lyrical intensity, concerned with darkness and light, with the seasons, and with the passing of time across landscapes that are both vast and minutely imagined. They capture the spiritual anguish of our time; the bittersweet joys of vanishing wilderness; anger at our political wrong- doings; the sensuality that memory can engender. Here are remembrances of the poet's youth, lyrics on the loss of loved ones, echoes
from the surfaces of the natural world. Here, too, is the poet's sense of a larger mystery:

. . . we know
from the beginning that the darkness
is beyond us there is no explaining
the dark it is only the light
that we keep feeling a need to account for
--from "The Marfa Lights"

Passionate, rigorous, and quietly profound, The Pupil is an essential addition to the canon of contemporary American poetry--a book that finds W. S. Merwin's singularly resonant voice at the height of its power.

From the Hardcover edition.

Author Notes

Poet W. S. Merwin (William Stanley Merwin) was born on September 30, 1927 in New York City. He attended Princeton University. He has authored over fifteen books of poetry and some of those titles include "The River Sound" (Alfred A. Knopf, 1999), which was named a New York Times notable book of the year; "The Vixen" (1996), which won the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize; "The Carrier of Ladders" (1970), which won the Pulitzer Prize; and "A Mask for Janus" (1952), which was selected by W. H. Auden for the Yale Series of Younger Poets. Merwin won a second Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for The Shadow of Sirius (published in 2008). He has also published books of translation, which include Dante's Purgatorio, numerous plays and books of prose.

Some of Merwin's honors include the Aiken Taylor Award for Modern American Poetry, the Bollingen Prize, the Governor's Award for Literature of the State of Hawaii, the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, the PEN Translation Prize, the Shelley Memorial Award, the first Tanning Prize and a Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Writers' Award. He also received fellowships from the Academy of American Poets, the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation and a Ford Foundation Grant.

He is a Chancellor of The Academy of American Poets and received a five-year term as judge of the Yale Series of Younger Poets.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

A pupil is both a student and the aperture in the eye that responds to light and dark, and Merwin, a much-honored and sage poet, explores both meanings in this elegant collection of spare, haunting poems. A student of the universe for seven decades, he begins at the beginning, the void, and contemplates the deep, unfathomable dark and the great flowing mystery we call time. Light is a lovely but fleeting presence: its journey can be so long that its origin, a star, may have ceased to exist before life on Earth began; language, too, flowers only momentarily. Merwin muses on the long stillness of winter and the flurry and song of spring, cycles that mark a life that seems substantial--the face reflected in a train window is indisputably older--yet feels brief and elusive. Memories of boyhood and outrage over the tormenting of animals and the murder of Matthew Shepard rise up like lava on the cool surface of Merwin's poems, making clear the spiritual need for his cosmological perspective. Donna Seaman

Publisher's Weekly Review

Fresh from several much-praised book-length works, the impressively prolific Merwin (The Folding Cliffs, etc.) enters his sixth decade as a publishing poet with a decidedly mixed group of new short poems. Recent collections have portrayed the sights and sounds of Hawaii, Merwin's adopted home state, along with memories of his Atlantic coast boyhood. Though both are represented here, they take a backseat to astronomy and the night sky, which occasion many reflections on mortality, transience and the void, delivered in Merwin's familiar, sinuous, punctuation-free sentences. One poem remembers "the year of the well of darkness/ overflowing with no/ moon and no stars"; others portray "the darkness thinking the light" or "the white moments that had traveled so long." Merwin's overreliance on a few key words threatens monotony for the astronomy-centered first half of the book. The poems shine when Merwin finds subjects more specific and concrete than time, space, darkness and light. "Aliens" describes the beauty in a flock of linnets; "Before the Flood" portrays the poet's father as Noah. "Plan for the Death of Ted Hughes" becomes a genuinely original, understated elegy. And the poems near the back of the book are the best Merwin has done for many years among them a meditation on liberal guilt, a strong dawn piece ("the teeth of roofs and the thin trees") and a bitter poem about Matthew Shepard: "This is what the west was won for/ and this is the way it was won." (Oct.) Forecast: Merwin has won about every award there is (Pulitzer, Bollingen, and so on). He has appeared frequently this year in the New Yorker, and his role as ecological advocate has recently raised his profile. All these factors may help boost his new work; the sheer number of recent books, however, risks creating a Merwin glut. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

A member of the awe-inspiring generation of American poets born in the 1920s others include John Ashbery, Adrienne Rich, James Wright, James Merrill, A.R. Ammons, and Allen Ginsberg Merwin remains a prolific author of award-winning poetry, prose, and translation, as well as an environmental activist, pacifist, and practicing Buddhist. Known for their elegance and, in later periods, lack of punctuation, his poems include many sonnets and are apt to use soft, echoing rhyme. Lovely to hear, they have their own life on the page, where the tension between syntax and enjambment provides narrative thrust: "the searchlight rays/ groping up through the smoke St. Paul's was still/ untouched though waves of bombs went on falling/ I kept seeing Alice rollerskating." This new collection moves in a seasonal progression from spring to winter, covering old and new territory: a difficult clergyman father, a friendship with Ted Hughes, the murder of Matthew Shepard, the horrific practice of bear-baiting in Pakistan, and more recent friendships in Maui, his adopted home. Light is played against darkness as a central metaphor for existence, and there are poems about stars, comets, and the Marfa lights in Texas, the last an unexplained natural phenomenon representing centuries of human confrontation with the unknown. There is no poet quite like Merwin for portraying human failure in all its poignant irony. For all poetry collections. Ellen Kaufman Dewey Ballantine LLP Law Lib., New York (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Prophecy At the end of the year the stars go out the air stops breathing and the Sibyl sings first she sings of the darkness she can see she sings on until she comes to the age without time and the dark she cannot see no one hears then as she goes on singing of all the white days that were brought to us one by one that turned to colors around us a light coming from far out in the eye where it begins before she can see it burns through the words that no one has believed The Comet Museum So the feeling comes afterward some of it may reach us only long afterward when the moment itself is beyond reckoning beyond time beyond memory as though it were not moving in heaven neither burning farther through any past nor ever to arrive again in time to be when it has gone the senses wake all through the day they wait for it here are pictures that someone took of what escaped us at the time only now can we remember Excerpted from The Pupil by W. S. Merwin All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.